The Real Reason Leaders Win: Return on Character

Blue Books Graph With Red Arrow

Cash or Character?

Not too long ago, I was asked to give a talk about organizational culture and why it matters. Before I walked up to the podium, one of the attendees cornered me. He wanted me to know his strongly-held position. In an emphatic tone, he nearly shouted:

“Skip, cash matters, not culture, not character, not creativity! Cash is the only thing you can spend.”

How fortunate that my slides started with financials so I could demonstrate the power of culture change. But, what I wish I had was the book that crossed my desk a few weeks ago:  Return on Character: The Real Reasons Leaders and Their Companies Win.  In the most comprehensive study of its kind, Fred Kiel reveals the research that proves that good character wins. We discussed his findings at length and I know many organizational leaders will want to study the results.

 

“Character is the tree. Reputation is its shadow.” -Lincoln

 

 

Studying CEO’s

Tell us just briefly about your study and its methodology. Where did you get the idea, how many CEO’s were involved, etc.?

ROC CoverIn 2005 I and my co-author, Doug Lennick, published a book entitled Moral Intelligence in which we claimed that highly principled leaders obtained better long-term business results than leaders who were not so principled.  The book has done very well, but shortly after it was published we received some pushback. One person said, “Fred, I know you like all of this soft stuff.  But let me give you a little lesson in economics.  The business model is what creates value.  If a business is profitable and makes a lot of money, all that culture stuff will come along with it.  And if it doesn’t, that’s not a big deal as long as management stays legal.  What you talk about is just icing on the cake.  It’s nice but not necessary.  And, besides you don’t have any hard data to back up your claim.”

This really got to me.  He was right about me not having any data to back up our claim that character matters – and that became the call to action for our study.

Over the next seven years we signed up 121 CEOs and their senior teams to participate.  Eighty-four completed the study, so we have complete data sets on these 84 CEOs, their senior teams, and their organizations.  Over 8,500 randomly selected employees completed our surveys about these CEOs and their teams.  We have nearly one million separate data points in our research base.  This is the largest study of this kind to date.

 

4 Universal Character Habits

How do you define character in the Return on Character (ROC) matrix?

We scoured the cultural anthropology research and discovered that humans all over the world share many common practices and beliefs.  Parents all over the world teach their children to tell the truth, keep promises, own up to mistakes, forgive others, and to care for people – at least in their tribe.  We added to this understanding the recent findings from the neurosciences and genetics to come up with our definition of character as it applies to leaders.

The ROC Matrix shows the four universal principles and the character habits that are aligned with these principles.

 

Copyright Fred Kiel; Used by Permission Copyright Fred Kiel; Used by Permission

Lincoln said, “Character is the tree.  Reputation is its shadow.”  Likewise, the habits we all have for how we treat other people is our character reputation.  That’s what we measured in our research – a leader’s reputation for how he or she treats people.

 

Probing the Leader’s Childhood

In several places in the book, you delve into the CEO’s childhood and upbringing.  Why?  What did you find?  Why is the CEO’s life story so important?

If you took the resumes and employment histories of high character CEOs and compared them to low character CEOs, you’d be hard pressed to see much difference. Both groups are competitive, driven to succeed, rational, high energy, and often wicked smart – they know how to command a room and nail an interview.

Where we started to see significant differences was when we surveyed their employees and asked about their behaviors around the 4 universal character habits – integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion. So that begs the question – how did each group come by their different postures around these habits? Where did they get their beliefs about how the world worked and how to succeed in that world?

Turns out the clues are in their childhoods and upbringing.

Leaders Require No Fine Print

Little child looking through a magnifying glass isolated on whit

No Fine Print Required

There I was, staring at the clock. It was late at night, or really early in the morning, and I had a meeting the next morning. Sleep was eluding me. Like a surfer, I would almost catch the wave to take me where I needed to go, but then it would dissipate before I could get going.

I tried deep breathing. Prayer. Meditation. I have never sought pharmaceutical help, but I have tried various herbal remedies. That’s when I remembered that I had purchased a new product that had melatonin in it. Melatonin is a hormone that supposedly helps with sleep. There have been times when that has been an aide to me, so I wandered downstairs to try it. Getting back into bed, the exhaustion once again seemed to take over…

Bam!

Suddenly, I was wide awake. Completely wired as if I had three cups of coffee. Not only was I no longer tired, I had a surge of energy. When that happens, I get up and read a book or do something productive around the house.

A few hours later, I picked up the bottle.

There, in the fine print, I read the words on the label. “Valerian.”

Valerian is an herb that helps some people sleep. I tried that before many years ago. I was one of the small percentage of people who don’t react with sleep, but in the opposite way. Apparently, this pill had a nice dose of it mixed with the melatonin.

 

“Leaders require no fine print.” -Skip Prichard

 

Pow!

How often do we read the fine print? How many times do you see an asterisk and read that footnote?

Nothing is more important than our character. A reputation or personal brand built without character inevitably fades, fails, or fizzles. Integrity is solid. When we have it, our friends can rely on us; our business partners trust us, and even our competitors admire us.

 

“Personal brands built without character fade, fail, and fizzle.” -Skip Prichard

 

Leadership and Punctuation

Top Reasons for Leadership Fails

Leadership Or Business Failure
This is a guest post by Alison Brattle. Alison is a marketing manager with AchieveGlobal (UK) Limited. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Reducing the Risk of Leadership Failure

The world’s greatest leaders know that success is fleeting and that no amount of success in the present can prevent a future failure. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it can’t happen to you, but the truth is, it’s much easier to fail than you think. An essential part of leadership development is understanding the warning signs that indicate potential problems; learn what they are and how to combat them to reduce the risk of a leadership failure.

 

Leadership Question: Are you able to write down your focus area in just a few words?

 

Your Focus Shifts

A focus shift can happen in many ways. Some leaders lose sight of what’s important; they get caught up by the pressure that leadership brings, and they lose the focus that they had on the job. In some cases, leaders start to focus too much on the finer details of the job, they start micromanaging, and they end up taking over tasks that are better carried out by other people.

What’s your primary focus in terms of your leadership role? If you can’t write it down succinctly in just a few words, you may be losing focus. Remember that you should be concentrating on leading, not on micromanaging.

 

You’re Communicating Poorly

If you’ve lost focus as a leader, you’re going to have a very hard time communicating your vision and intent to other people. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your team will automatically know what you’re talking about or know what you want without being told.

 

Leadership Trap: thinking your team automatically knows what you are talking about.

 

You’re Afraid of Failure

A good leader is driven by a desire to succeed, but sometimes, doubt and uncertainty creep in, and that desire for success turns into a fear of failure. Past success starts to feel less like achievement and more like pressure, and for some leaders that translates into a fear of taking reasonable risks and a fear of innovating.

Are you still comfortable with risk? Good leaders aren’t reckless, but equally so, they’re not afraid of taking on a reasonable level of risk.

 

Leadership Question: Are you taking the appropriate amount of risk?

 

Your Personal Integrity is Slipping

Introvert or Extrovert: Who Makes the Better Leader?

Vector Extraversion-introversion Infographics In Flat Style

Journey to the Middle

If you met me when I was in my 20’s, I have no doubt you would label me an extreme extrovert.  If I spent time with people, my energy level soared.  If I walked into a restaurant, I would meet the people all around me.  Now married to an introvert for over twenty years, I think I am still extroverted, but much less so.  My wife is also less of an introvert than she once was.  We become like the people we are most often around.

I’m often asked about the qualities of a leader and where extroversion and introversion fit in.

 

 

Extroversion and Leadership

The perception is that extroversion is a requirement for the corner office.

A USA Today poll indicated that 65% of executives indicated introversion was a barrier to rising through the corporate ranks.  This is often because introverts are perceived as shy, unable to articulate issues quickly, or unable to make quick decisions.

Are You and Introvert or Extrovert? Take our test below to find out!

Half of the population is introverted. But 60% of top executives are extroverted.

Extroverts are known for their public speaking and networking skills. They are often able to communicate under pressure and are known as natural sales leaders. They are often more forceful with ideas, able to motivate a team to action.

 

“An extrovert looks at a stack of books and sees a stack of papers, while an introvert looks at the same stack and sees a soothing source of escape.” –Eric Samuel Timm

 

The Return of the Introvert

Susan Cain became the introvert’s best friend and champion when she published Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  Immediately, introverts everywhere had research to indicate that they could also make great leaders.

 

“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” –Susan Cain

 

I wasn’t surprised by her research because, as I said, I am married to an introvert.  She is a deep thinker, the world’s best listener, and extraordinarily creative.  Add my introverted daughter into the mix and it doubles down on the argument.  Both of them have the ability to lead regardless of how much they shun a neighborhood party.  The introvert often can take action, even unpopular, because she has less concern for what people think.  That can be a significant advantage and one I learned from my wife, enabling me to make unpopular-but-necessary decisions.

 

Poll: 65 percent of executives say introverts are less likely to advance at work.

 

Unfair Stereotypes

Unless you have taken a vow of solitude and have absolutely no interaction with the outside world, you need to learn to work with both extroverts and introverts. Unfairly ascribing attributes to someone creates an unnecessary gulf.

Quotes and Leadership Lessons from Joel Osteen

Qualities of A Winner

You Can, You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner is the latest book by Joel Osteen. Fans of Joel Osteen’s positive message will enjoy the stories throughout the book of inspiration and encouragement.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Joel, who is the pastor of Lakewood, the largest church in the U.S. He’s immediately recognizable from his television ministry, bestselling books and stadium appearances. Not too long ago, I noticed he has his own SiriusXM station.

My Mistakes

9781455575718As I look back on my earliest interviews for this website, I laugh. My first three in-person interviews included Pastor Joel Osteen, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and writer and producer John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June Carter Cash.

Let me be frank: I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t a professional interviewer. My colleague, Drew Bordas, had vast video and audio experience.  At that point, I think his total experience was that he occasionally videotaped his kids at home. Looking at this interview, I am thankful that Joel was so kind, so encouraging, and so forgiving to allow us to stumble through it. What makes it more remarkable is if you know Joel Osteen’s backstory. Joel is a true pro when it comes to production. Before he stepped up to minister after his father passed away, he worked behind the scenes and became a video and audio expert.

Here are some lessons I learned from that visit.

 

6 Leadership Lessons

 

1. Don’t condemn and judge others.

He says it, but my visit proves he lives it, too.

How often we waste time condemning, criticizing and complaining.  It wastes time, drains energy, and is counterproductive.

 

2. Encourage others.

Not only was he unaffected by his platform and position, humbly spending time with us, but he also was incredibly encouraging. He frequently quotes Proverbs 15:4:  “A gentle tongue brings healing.”

Organizations thrive when individuals are recognized and encouraged.

“A gentle tongue brings healing.” -Prov. 15:4

 

3. Find your life purpose.

Whatever you do, you want it to be in line with your life purpose. Observing Joel, I can see that he knows his own gifts and his purpose.  He focuses his energy and talent on it.  He genuinely wants everyone to have a blessed life, and he believes in the positive nature of people.

An organization with a unifying purpose will galvanize everyone to achieve.

 

4. Choose happiness.

As he says, “Whatever challenges you may face, whatever circumstances are weighing you down, you can choose your response.  How you live your life is totally up to you.”  His books are full of strategies on how to live a happier, more abundant life.

 

5.  Know what to ignore.